Monthly Archives: June 2012

Recipes – Rhubarb Chutney OR “Rhubarbicue Sauce”

So I still have some rhubarb left from the bunch I brought home from my Ghost’s family’s place.

I’m currently working on a batch of rhubarb chutney.
This recipe is one I’ve adapted from the one at Food in Jars and, though I’d have liked to have had more dried cranberries on hand (to throw in 3/4 of a cup rather than 1/4 of a cup), and also would have preferred not to have run out of brown sugar and had to use granulated to make up the volume, it’s already smelling pretty good so. Here we go:

~*~

Rhubarb Chutney

INGREDIENTS

4 C diced rhubarb
2 C red onion diced (about 1 large red onion)
¼ C dried cranberries
1½ C brown sugar
¾ C granulated sugar
1¼ C apple cider vinegar
¾ C white wine vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 slice candied ginger, crumbled
1 tsp each: ground ginger, cardamom
Pinch cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

1) Dice all the solid ingredients

2) Throw everything into a big, steel (or enamel) pot

3) Bring to a boil, then simmer until it all cooks down into a gooey, aromatic mess (this could take between thirty minutes and an hour a good two hours on low heat, fyi, and you’ll need to stir it regularly to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot)

4) Sterlize 4 or 5 three 1C mason jars, plus their lids and rings, in a steam (or hot water) bath for a good five minutes or more

5) Pour the chutney into the jars and cap them

6) Process the jars, upside down, in a steam/boiling water bath for five minutes

7) Allow to cool on a wire rack – you’ll hear the “plunk” as the seals form

~*~

So there you have it.
You can serve this chutney with pork, chicken, or turkey. It also works well as an addition to winter squash, sweet potatoes, or parsnips. I gather it will also do double-duty as a sweet-and-sour type sauce with stir-fried veggies. Alternatively, you could serve it with chevre, very old cheddar, or some other sharp cheese on crackers or toast.

B is for Balance – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I was reading A Canadian Foodie yesterday – I’m quite the sucker for Local Food blogs in my own country, although I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone – and I read her posts about the Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice feasts that she’d attended (and, in one case, hosted) in celebration of local food. Her winter solstice gathering didn’t actually happen at Midwinter (it happened, iirc, in January), but it got me thinking. This was a “solstice” party. Not a Christmas party or a New Year’s Eve party. It was a celebration of the land’s bounty and she tied it to the cycle of the seasons (whether or not she’s of a religious turn of mind that sees that cycle as holy).
And this got me thinking about balance; about what’s available, at any given time, when we eat what our ecosystem/bioregion offers us; and how that has its own rhythm, its own breath. So I wanted to talk about that a little bit, today. Thus:

B is for Balance

In winter, the foods that are available tend to be flesh and roots, along with the preserving agents of salt, fat, and vinegar. We eat meat, we eat cheese, we eat nuts – all heavy with oils; we eat vegetables preserved in vinegar, sugar, and salt (think beets in vinegar, sweet pickled onions, brined cucumbers, marinated mushrooms); fruits that have been stewed with sugar (think all those cakes and cookies featuring soft cheese and/or jam), or dried and reconstituted with wine (another way of preserving fruit in sugar, as it happens); we bring out the salt-cured sausages, the smoked fish, the pate made from liver or romano beans mixed with onions and garlic and dried herbs. We eat food that is rich – because the cold demands it of us, sure, but also because those are our options.

In summer – and Midsummer in Ottawa means that you might, maybe, have your first cherry tomatoes (if you started them early enough), and you’ll definitely have strawberries (YAY!), but you’re mostly still working with leafy greens and stalks or one kind or another – we eat fresh and, frequently, raw vegetables. Salads abound as we try to keep the heat out of the house. Grain is more likely to be couscous (or other quick-cooking pastas) or bread that’s been cooked outside of the house (these days, that means getting it from a bakery, but there are folks who build backyard wood-burning ovens, a bit like chimineas, out of Cob or other material) – rather than barley or other long-cooking grain that can be thrown into an all-day-simmering soup or stew.

When you eat locally, you take the rhythm of the land into your body in a visceral way. Winter vegetables – even when they’re preserved summer vegetables – don’t taste the same as summer vegetables do when they’re eaten fresh.

Winter, as I’ve said before, is Root Time. We fill ourselves with roots, but we also curl in on ourselves, we huddle around fires, tell stories, do things by feel, in the dark. this may be significantly due the secular holidays (Hallowe’en, Christmas, New Year’s, Winterlude and Valentine’s Day, even Thanks Giving and Easter if you want to sidle a little over the boarders of the dark side of the year) that fill the time between October and April, but I find that winter is also a time of traditions – another form of conserving/preserving, really, which is apt.

Summer is expansive – long days, freedom of movement (no more coats!), windows thrown open and the kitchen moved into the yard (BBQ season, anyone?). And everything, everywhere, blooming and growing, rising and broadening, deepening and ripening. If winter is a time when we gather in and wrap our arms around ourselves to keep warm, then summer is a time when we throw our arms open to the world.

Taken together, this inward, outward motion, root to branch to root and back again, this rhythm is almost like breathing: A constant and necessary motion. Balance.

Summer Solstice (and Honey/Strawberry Moon) – 2012

So, it’s Summer Solstice today. 🙂
It’s also (one day late) the beginning of Honey Moon, meaning that the bees are Doing Their Thing in force. (Though, granted, they’ve really been doing their Thing for months now… and the first honey harvest isn’t until August. Perhaps I need to rename this one? The strawberries are ripe now, so… Strawberry Moon?)

My garden is doing beautifully and, with any luck, I’ll be able to throw some rainbow chard into tonight’s dinner. 🙂

My plan is to slow-cook (I know, weird for summer, but – in theory – it’ll keep the heat down) a pork shoulder roast with some onion and garlic and the better part of a 2C jar worth of the savoury apple-service-berry jam[1] I made last year. I’ll probably add a little apple juice plus a handful of basil from the garden.

I’m going to serve it with steamed greens (I know – why am I cooking everything???) – dandelions and rainbow chard – with tomatoes (including our first ripe tomato of the year! What timing!) and asparagus tips (just the flowery tips – I want to try pickling the stalks the same way I would with cucumbers. My sister made them years ago and they were really good).
I’ll probably serve this all over rice – mostly because we’ve got some in the fridge from last night and I want to use it up – but it would go well with Very New Potatoes as well.

Dessert is going to be something made with rhubarb and strawberries, since that’s what I’ve got. I want to do a second batch of rhubarb-strawberry jam today (so I can gift some to the various hostesses who are putting us up over the next couple of weekends), as well as try my hand at a rhubarb chutney (which, as it happens, would also go well with a pork shoulder roast[2] next time I make one).

Currently, I’m working on another Pagan Blog Project post, aptly titled “B is for Balance”, so stay tuned for that one as it relates to the bright and dark halves of the year and how eating the seasons syncs our own, internal rhythms with those of the Land. 🙂 Whee!

So that’s my update.

Happy Solstice everyone! 🙂

Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] I made this stuff almost a year ago – the service berries around here aren’t ripe enough to harvest yet, but they will be inside of about two weeks. I need to find myself some old (scrap) sheets at a second hand store so I have a ground sheet and can just shake the berries out of the trees this year).

[2] Or barbicued pork ribs, or polish sausages or – for that matter – baked sweet potatoes or buttercup squash, come next winter. (The days are drawing in, after all… ;-))

Rhubarb: The Continuing Saga!

Hey all!

So my young lady and I went to visit her family this weekend and, while there, we were gifted with a (1) some flower seedlings and quite a few sets of bunching onions (now planted in pots on the balcony – here’s hoping) PLUS (2) a veritable armload of rhubarb from their huge rhubarb patch.
I’m tickled a pretty specific shade of pink, as you can surely imagine.

So today, since there’s no way we’re going to eat all of it fresh (and, also, our fridge is pretty full as-is), has been a canning day! 😀

Rhubarb Jam from OwlHaven
(link goes to her rhubarb jam recipe)

So far, I’ve made a rhubarb simple syrup (see recipe, below) with the intention of using it – mixed with white wine or soda water or even ginger ale – in lieu of lemonade as a refreshing patio drink. (I hear it works really well with a little mint thrown in – how handy that I have some growing on the balcony[1]!)

Currently, I’ve got a strawberry-rhubarb jam on the make. It’s a mix of Purple Cow (Greely[2]) strawberries, product-of-Ontario strawberries from the grocery store, the remains of the rhubarb from the syrup-making process, and another stalk of fresh rhubarb from my Ghost’s parents’ place.
I’ll soon be adding about 3 cups of sugar plus about a tablespoon of pectin[3] and we’ll see how we do from there. 🙂
I’m hoping I’ll get three cups out of it, though in theory this recipe (adapted from Canadian Living) makes as many as seven. We shall see. 🙂

[EDITED TO ADD: Jam Recipe makes three 250mL jars + four 125mL jars for a total of 5 Cups of jam /EDIT]

Later today, I’ll be making something like a rhubarb cafloutis (a bit like this one here, maybe?), although it’ll probably just be vanilla custard with some flour and rhubarb thrown in before baking. We shall see. 🙂

Anyway. Rhubarb Simple Syrup. Theoretically you mix a tablespoon of the stuff with a glass (250mls? 500mls? I’m going to have to experiment) of soda water or white wine, and you end up with a nice, summery mocktale that you can use instead of lemonade if you’re all into eating local food or, like one of my aunties, if you’re alergic to citrus fruits.

~*~

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Combine in a large sauce pan:
3-4 thick stalks of fresh rhubarb, cut into 3″ strips (about 1cm wide)
7 C water

Simmer for about 15 minutes, until you essentially have rhubarb tea.

Drain “tea” into another large pot, using a seive (reserve rhubarb pulp for jam or baking, if desired)

Boil rhubarb tea until you have about three cups of concentrated liquid

Add 3 cups of granulated sugar to the liquid and bring to a gentle boil

Boil for 10-15 minutes, until syrup feels thick when you stir it

Pour into steam-sterilized jars (or, if you have them, resealable steam-sterilized bottles) and cap

Process in another steam/boiling-water bath for 5 minutes then allow to cool on a wire rack. You should hear them go “plink” as they seal.

Makes a little over three cups, total.

~*~

I’m strongly considering trying Mrs Wheelbarrow’s rhubarb chutney and rhubarb pickles or some of the many rhubarb-centric chutneys and jams linked to by Tigress in a Jam.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] It would also go well with some lemon verbena – which, I gather, has a lemon-zest-like flavour. I think, given that, I will have to try growing lemon verbena on the balcony next summer. For now, though, I’ll work with what I’ve got. 😉

[2] They used to have an ice cream shop in the Glebe, but it closed years ago. IIRC, they actually served a lot of Kawartha Dairy (Peterborough area) ice cream. Mmmmmmmm… Moose Tracks and Bear Claws… 😀

[3] Rhubarb contains a lot of pectin just on its own, however I don’t want to take any chances. (It would be different if I were going for a jelly, and could just call it “strawberry-rhubarb syrup” or “strawberry-rhubarb glaze” if it didn’t gel properly, but this is going to have chunks of fruit in it, and needs to actually be spreadable when it’s done).

State of the Garden – Mid-June 2012

We went away to a cottage last weekend and, when we came back, this is what I found:

We have one bloom on the dianthus

The cucumber plant is almonst long enough to start climbing

The beans in with the tomatoes have started to climb their strings, although the beans everywhere else aren’t quite as big (the ones in the window boxes may or may not do any climbing at all, I’m not sure… they’re mostly there to act as nitrogen fixers though, so any flowers or fruits that we get will be a bonus for those ones)

The dill is looking extremely happy – tall and feathery and even starting to flower – and the basil is starting to flower as well. Our lavender plant is still pretty compact and, while I think it’s growing a little, it isn’t growing a lot

The tomato plant is growing and it has lots of flowers, as well as a few more fruits getting going

The garlic chives are actually visible to the naked eye, although they’re also still very fine and will be a while before I can start harvesting them for salads and such

The morning glories are… huddled together and not doing much. Although I recall they didn’t really get going until August the first time I grew them, so they may yet be okay…

The rainbow chard is leafing nicely and, in a week or two, will be ready for its first harvest

The lambs quarters that I transplanted to a pot are… not dead yet! 😀 We’ll see if they actually start growing and getting bigger but, so far so good, so yay!

The nasturiums are leafing nicely in both the window box and the cucumber bin, but they are still quite small (I put some in a salad last night with dandelions, pea sprouts, crunchy sprouts, basil, and tomatoes – very tasty)

~*~

Around the Neighbourhood:
The sour cherries and service berries are getting ripe but are still mostly green (give it two weeks, seriously), some of the wild strawberries (at the cottage we borrowed) are already ripe and tasty in a sweet-yet-tart kind of way.
Dandelion (and related) greens, plus lamb’s quarters (wild amaranth/spinach) and plantane are available all over the place (we’ve been eating a LOT of dandelions of late).
Pears and apples are in the fruit-growing stage of their development. Not sure where the mulberries are at (I’ll have to walk by our local tree and have a look). Grapes are flowering at present. That’s about all I’ve got for now. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

B is for Bottle Spells – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Before I identified as a “pagan” or a “neo-pagan” or an “animist” or as “goddess practitioner” or any of the other categories I’ve applied to myself over the years, I identified as a Witch. Not, I add emphatically, as a Wiccan. I don’t think I ever was a Wiccan. But a witch? You bet.
And I defined “witch”, in significant (though not entire) part, as “someone who casts spells; someone who does spell-craft”.

And the spells I do, when I do them, are very much the magical counterpart to my method of cooking. Meaning “What do I have in the fridge?” – although, in the case of spell-craft, it becomes “what do I have in the fridge/cupboard/yarn-bag/beading-kit/etc”. But you get the general idea.

I’ve done magical guerilla knitting (still in progress), and I’ve done wammy-sachets (ages ago), and I’ve done bottle spells. And, by the looks of things, I’m actually kind of good at bottle spells.

Now, I grant you, I’ve only made, like, two of them, and they’ve both been honey-pots. But I’ve made them, and they seem to do the trick.

As far as I understand it, a bottle spell works on either attraction or repulsion.
So if, say, someone in my office[1] is a Horrible Person who goes in for passive aggression, sabotage, malicious gossip[2], or even just eating up your time in a way that is fucking with my own career path, and talking to them about it is only making things worse (and/or I don’t want to waste any more breath on them)…
I could grab some of their hair[4] from off the back of their office chair while they were out of their cubical and either (A) do a honey-pot spell to bring them their dream job[5] OR, (B) I could do a banishing bottle to get them to go the fuck away[6]. Alternatively, I could (C) do a spell on my own cubical and basically work a “don’t look here[7]”… though I’m less sure as to how to do that (I think it involves amaranth and shielding, but I could be wrong) OR (D) make a honey pot for myself (using my own hair, which is easier to get ahold of) and get ME my dream job Somewhere Else[8] the hell away from my irritating and malicious co-worker.

Lots of options.

I like bottle spells.
I like them because they’re simple to do and you can do them on the fly, largely with whatever’s lying around.
Like most kitchen-magic, they’re basically designed be done when they’re needed, rather than having to wait for the appropriate moon phase or planetary alignment. (Shoaling notwithstanding, I’m not at all a Chaos Magician or any of the other designations found at (what I think is) the more ceremonial end of the spectrum).
I like them because they suit my temperament well.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] I don’t actually work at an office, so I figure this is a safe example since my non-existent co-workers are likely to freak out about what I’m theoretically up to.

[2] I differentiate between “gossip” – which gets a bad rap specifically because it’s a mode of information-sharing that isn’t controlled by The Powers That Be[3], but is actually just fine – and “malicious gossip” which is, like, character assassination, tattling, and the kind of triangulation where the point is to break up alliances.

[3] Who gets accused of gossip? Women. Poor people. Mexicans. See what I mean?

[4] Yes, I said “get some of their hair”. By nefarious and secretive means, no less. Deal.

[5] Somewhere else – possibly by including a small map of Argentina or something.

[6] Depending on what I put in the bottle, I could probably get them badly hurt, but I’d rather not have that on my hands, so… “away”.

[7] Why, yes, I do read the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. How did you know?

[8] Like, say, a writing career featuring magic, recipes, polyamoury, and kink…

Rhubarb Custard Flan for Two

Hey there!

So I just put a 7-bar batch of (probably sucessful! At least it actually traced properly, so things are boding well) unscented soap into the “incubator” (read: big pink blanket) to cook for a couple of days, and I’m feeling hopeful. On Saturday, I’ll pull it out and set it to cure on the Soap Shelf and, hopefully, I’ll be well on my way to reliably making successful soap again.

That would be awesome!

BUT! That’s not actually what I’m blogging to tell you about right now. Bear with me:

Okay. My girlfriend and I went to Montreal with some phamily last weekend. It was quite glorious. We walked through the Village (which has strings of pink xmas balls hanging above St Catherine… I think they’re in part used for pigeon control, but they seriously make me feel like (a) I must wear Fabulous Shoes and carry a parasol while in Montreal’s Village, and (b) like I’ve actually gone Over The Rainbow. It’s gloriously whimsical. I want to see that kind of thing done here. :-D) We sat in a big park and watch the bike race go by. We had lunch in a cafe (I had chocoalte fruit crepes… which were totally not as good as I’d hoped, but were still tasty) and nachoes at 1000 Grammes, and we went to a really fanTAStic restaurant for dinner.

I am a foodie. Give me a glorious banquet, and I will sing your praises.

(To that end, if you’re in Montreal and have a heap of cash lying around for a Special Occasion, do go and check out Au Petit Extra. Their Confit de canard en salade is just heaven in a bowl, let me tell you! 😀

But, anyway, as I was saying: It was fanTAStic. Not only was the food delicious, but they were using seasonal ingredients (asparagus soup and rhubarb tart, for example, plus a salad of greens and slivered beets and carrots) and we had a view of the kitchen!
I swear, I just about cried at the beauty of the huge bouquet of ruby-pink rhubarb that one of the chefs was cutting at the back of the kitchen.
Just beautiful! 😀

And, consequently, I find myself wanting to cook with rhubarb[1].
Now, I bought the rhubarb that I’m using in this recipe. Until now, I hadn’t done that before (there was usually some available from a parent/friend/neighbour desperate to prune their enormous rhubarb patch, so…). Part of me still wants to walk up the street and cut a bunch from a neighbour’s front garden but… I don’t think they’d appreciate that much.

Anyway.
With all that in mind, I offer you this:

~*~

Rhubarb Custard Flan for Two

INGREDIENTS

1 stalk of fresh rhubarb, washed and chopped into very thin rounds

Crust:
1/2 C vanilla cookie crumbs (or similar)
2 tbsp butter

Custard:
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla[3]
pinch salt

DIRECTIONS

1) Combine the crumbs and the butter in a small bowl and mix until you have a sticky, but not TOO sticky consistency.

2) Pat mixture into a small pie plate[3]

3) Bake the crust (I put it on a cookie sheet to make it easier to handle) at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden brown

4) While the crust is baking, wash and chop the rhubarb. Rounds should be about 2mm-3mm wide (less than 1/4″)

5) Take the crust out of the oven

6) Put the chopped rhubarb into the crust

7) Make the Custard:

7a) In a small pot, whisk the egg with the sugar until it is “lemony” (pale yellow and well-mixed without much in the way of obviously unmixed white or yolk)

7b) Add the milk, salt, and vanilla and whisk until well-blended

7c) Put the pot on the stove and heat the mixture on Medium, whisking constantly

7d) When the custard begins to thicken (about 5 minutes), take it off the heat, but continue whisking for a little bit (call it another 30-60 seconds)

8) Pour the custard over the rhubarb

9) Put the small pie plate into a baking dish half-filled with water[4]

10) Bake for an hour at 300F (or until custard bounces back when tapped lightly)

11) Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes[5]

12) Serve and enjoy. 😀

~*~

So there you have it. A quick (I’d call it about 15-20 minutes, not counting the actual cooking time) dessert using the first fruit of the season. 😀

To make this dish a little more local, you can:
Use 1/4 C maple syrup + 1/3 C milk in lieu of the sugar and milk called for in the recipe.
You can also use artificial vanilla, or use a tincture of elderflower or lindenflower (as one reader suggested) in lieu of the vanilla.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] This is, I realize, also due to my own local-seasonal food proclivities. It’s available (and not a lot of other fruit – beyond a few lingering apples – is, unless it’s jam), so I want to use it!

[2] Yes, that’s a lot of vanilla for such a small pie. Bear with me.

[3] I’m using the kind of aluminium dishes that you get when you want to make Individual Chicken Pot Pies, for example. But you could prabably(?) make this work with a 6″ pie plate, too.

[4] I used another aluminum pan, this one an 9″ round cake pan.

[5] I’m making this for dinner, so it’ll be in there all day.

A is for Animism – Pagan Blog Project 2012

So, further to my last post, I’m continuing the Pagan-themed Alphabet posts with a second “A” entry:

A is for Animism

I talk to my plants.
That’s the short, moderately mundane-acceptable version of “everything has a spirit”. It’s also What I Do. I garden – and talk to the plants. I forage – and talk to the plants. I go on long walks through my neighbourhood – and talk to the plants. I also talk to the animals (not just cats and dogs, I mean “Excuse me, ladies,” when I’m walking through a crowd of pigeons outside my building, or “Hey, there,” to the crow Making Announcements from the top of the street lamp on my way down town, or to the bee(s) visiting the roses in the back parking lot).
I am less likely, it must be said, to talk to rocks and furniture. It’s not that it doesn’t happen. I’ve talked to storm clouds, talked to my pots and pans, talked to the food I’m about to cook (that happens a lot, but also tends to fall under the head of “talking to plants/animals given that this is what I eat – it’s just). I’ve listened to rocks.

Which doesn’t mean I understand a damn thing that they’re saying – if they’re saying anything in particular or saying it at a speed I’m likely to follow (for all I know they’re just sort of doing the rock version of zen chanting, so…) – but I’ve listened.

Which means that thinking there’s something to listen to is part of my Pagan World View: The idea that everything has a soul and a life and a thought process of some kind.

It doesn’t stop me from eating – anything – but it does, I think, contribute to my general (attempts at an) gratitude towards The World (or my little place in it) for looking out for me and ensuring that I get fed. It means that, when I talk about eating animals, I frequently use “someone” as opposed to “something” to describe who (not what) died for my meal.

That’s (side tangent?) something I really appreciated about the part of The Omnivore’s Dilemma wherein the author talks about hunting and killing a wild pig. He uses the word “she” rather than “it” to talk about the sow he killed.
There’s a tremendous respect in that, to recognize the personhood of someone who’s just walked into your gunshot so you can have dinner[1].

I think that’s a Thing in my Paganism. To not “look away”. Both to recognize it when I’m eating someone who’s spent all of their short life in horrible living conditions AND to actively try to minimize (or outright remove) the role those people play in my diet[3] in favour of other people who have had better lives – either on farms where they got to live out their lives the way Nature (and Nurture)[4] intended, or from the wild, where there was nobody around to try and stop them from living out their lives as Nature intended[5].

Animism is part of my Paganism.
It’s also part of my dietary choices (and I realize this post has been far more about A-is-for-Agriculture and/or A-is-for-Appetite than specifically about Animism).
I think that, as Pagans (this is where I get preachy, y’all), we need to walk the walk of our beliefs as best as we can. One way I walk the walk of my Animism is by choosing (when I can – because money is very much an object in my house) to eat animals (and plants) who are my neighbours and whose wellbeing has been taken into consideration during their lives.

Anyway. That’s my talk about (sort of) animism (and appetites and agriculture, apparently).

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I feel I should note here that I’m not under (too m)any illusions about a given animal offering themselves up to be killed. There’s luck and grace (and skill) involved in, say, fishing. But there’s also shiny/tasty hard-to-resist bate with a hook in it. There are blinds and camouflage and long-range weapons involved in hunting. Someone may turn up exactly when I need them – and maybe that’s Deer or Moose or Bass or Turkey (whoever the all-soul of an entire given species might be) saying “Okay, child of mine, I’m bringing you home today,” and giving a specific deer/moose/bass/turkey/etc a push towards my (in my case) fishing rod[2] – but I don’t think that specific individual deer/moose/bass/turkeys/etc are meandering through life and then go “Hey, yeah, I’ve got a death wish. I think I’ll go this way today!”
Not so much, no.

[2] I don’t – currently – hunt. I may never. My partner won’t keep a gun in the house and I’m up for standing by that. So, no, I’m not likely to kill a deer with a fishing rod. However. You get what I mean, right?

[3] The idea being that if you keep buying meat, but don’t buy it from companies who treat the animals badly, those companies will either (a) change their ways, or (b) go bankrupt and cease to exist. And, either way, you’re no-longer keeping them on life-support.

[4] I’m saying Nature and Nurture here because the evolutionary process of what we think of as Farm Animals has included a lot of human input, wherein we nurtured certain characteristics and actively encouraged them to become dominant traits in the species (and sub-species) with-which we were interacting on an agricultural level.

[5] An intention, I feel I should point out, that typically includes death by predator (E.G.: Me).

A is for Ancestors – Pagan Blog Project 2012

So. There’s this thing called the Pagan Blog Project. And I’m finding myself inclined to jump on that bandwagon and do twenty-six (theoretically weekly, but I suspect they’ll be more sporadic/random than that) posts pertaining to elements of my religious beliefs and practice in alphabetical order. I’m doing this partly because, yeah, a couple of cool-ass people – Miss Sugar and Mama Fortuna, specifically – are Doing It, so why not me; but more significantly because I tend to spend most of my time on this blog talking about gardening, foraging, and small-c crafts, to the detriment of more obvious Pagan content: I’d like to rectify that situation and doing it using a set of (self-determined) alphabetical prompts is a fairly simple way of doing so (which means I’m that much more likely to acutally stick with it).

As such, I bring you entry #1 on my Pagan Blog Project tag:

A is for Ancestors

In my home practice, I do Ancestor Veneration. It’s not hard core (because next to nothing I do is Hard Core) but it’s there. I light candles and, sometimes, incense for my family, include them in my (still sporadic) boiled water offerings, recognize them at birthdays and death-days and similar, and just generally talk to them. Sometimes I ask for help or guidance – more or less the way I do with, say, my very-much-alive dyke-musician-environmentalist auntie (apparently dyke-musician-environmentalism runs in the family… who knew?)
It’s low-key and homey and nice. I like it.

The thing is… I’ve always done this. My mom taught me this, kind of by accident, when she explained the concept of angels as “people who are in heaven” and also the concept of dead relatives as “people who are in heaven”. I suspect the name-that-relative game that we played when I was a toddler (and we lived an airplane ride away from 100% of the extended family) also has something to do with this: People who are your family even though you don’t typically see them, who care about you even though they aren’t around.

When I lost my faith in Christianity (up until my very earliest teens, I was a pretty devoted Christian – I half-wonder if, had I been Pentacostal, I would have stayed with it[1] – but I started questioning a lot of the sexism and similar in the scriptures when I hit high school and, by the time I was sixteen, it was just GONE), I basically said to myself “I can’t have faith in this deity anymore. He’s too much of a shithead. I just can’t. I cannot put my trust in this guy. Okay. So… What/who can I believe in?”
And, thus, my search began.

The first answer I came up with – quite quickly, as it happened – was “angels”. But I didn’t mean “angels – the emissaries of Jehova who are not and never have been human”. I mean “angels – my dead relatives who keep an eye on me and have my back”.

And so it began. I do ancestor veneration. I talk to my dad and, sometimes, my nana (most frequently), along with the general group of Everyone Else. I ask my dad to guide me when I go fishing this summer because he was always good at it, and also he’s the one who taught me to fish. I write letters to my remaining living grandparents. I have pictures of my relatives (living and dead) in a shrine by the front door and they have their own altar-space (on, granted, a shelf shared with My Lady of the Crossroads, but that’s kind of apt, as she handles The Dead anyway…) and it’s part of my regular practice.

Something I’d like to do is incorporate a spare place setting at my Solstice Dinner (the one done by candle light to honour the dark end of the year) so that my relatives (and deities, and so on) can stop by and//or join in.

Anyway. That’s my (brief) discussion of ancestor veneration.

TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden

[1] Probably not. The whole polyamourous lesbian thing probably would have been a sticking point somewhere along the line…